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Which Automaker Has the Best MPG Cars?

2018 Tesla Model 3 Tesla Model 3 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The EPA has released its annual Automotive Trends Report for 2020, which includes data on which manufacturers make the most fuel-efficient vehicles, calculating fleetwide fuel economy ratings for all the vehicles made by a given manufacturer. Naturally, that gives a ranking of which automaker has the best overall mileage — and which has the worst.

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Before we dig into the data, a few caveats. First, the most recent concrete set of data we have is for the 2019 model year; the rankings for the 2020 model year are based on projections.

“This report shows projected model year 2020 data that was generally provided to EPA by manufacturers before the outbreak of COVID-19, and any associated impacts on the automobile industry,” the agency noted. “Therefore, the projected model year 2020 data may change significantly before being finalized.”

Brands are also grouped together by manufacturer, so, for example, BMW includes Mini and Rolls-Royce, and GM includes Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC. (Curiously, the EPA chose to separate affiliated automakers Hyundai and Kia.) No distinction was made for fuel type, so alt-fuel and plug-in vehicles (using the electric-car-specific mpg-equivalent rating), as well as hybrids and diesels, are all counted. But vehicles not required to have EPA ratings (like heavy-duty pickups) are not included. Also excluded are smaller manufacturers like Volvo and independent marques Aston Martin and Ferrari.

Finally, the mpg ratings used here are based on the more complex EPA five-cycle test and weights highway and city fuel economy at 57% and 43%, respectively. That’s different from the two-cycle test the EPA uses for compliance testing with industry fuel-economy requirements, and it’s also separate, if just slightly, from the 55%-45% combined fuel economy you see on window stickers, which the EPA periodically revises. You can find the entire report and all the data used on the EPA’s website, if you’d like to dig even deeper.

Which Automaker Made the Most Fuel-Efficient Cars in 2019?

1. Tesla: 118 mpg (mpg-e)

2. Honda (includes Acura and Honda): 28.9 mpg

3. Hyundai (includes Genesis and Hyundai): 28.5 mpg

4. Subaru: 28.4 mpg

5. Kia: 28.1 mpg

6. Mazda: 27.8 mpg

7. Nissan (includes Infiniti and Nissan): 27.0 mpg

8. BMW (includes BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce): 26.2 mpg

9. Volkswagen (includes Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche and Volkswagen): 26.1 mpg

10. Toyota (includes Lexus and Toyota): 25.8 mpg

11. Mercedes-Benz (includes Mercedes-Benz and Smart): 23.7 mpg

12. Ford (includes Ford and Lincoln): 22.5 mpg

13. GM (includes Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC): 22.5 mpg

14. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (includes Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati and Ram): 21.2 mpg

Which Automaker Is Projected to Have Made the Most Fuel-Efficient Cars in 2020?

1. Tesla: 119.1 mpg (mpg-e)

2. Honda (includes Acura and Honda): 29.7 mpg

3. Hyundai (includes Genesis and Hyundai): 28.9 mpg

4. Subaru: 28.3 mpg

5. Mazda: 27.6 mpg

6. Nissan (includes Infiniti and Nissan): 27.4 mpg

7. Kia: 27.3 mpg

8. Toyota (includes Lexus and Toyota): 26.2 mpg

9. BMW (includes BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce): 25.5 mpg

10. Volkswagen (includes Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche and Volkswagen): 24.4 mpg

11. Mercedes-Benz (includes Mercedes-Benz and Smart): 23.9 mpg

12. Ford (includes Ford and Lincoln): 23.3 mpg

13. GM (includes Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC): 22.8 mpg

14. FCA (includes Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati and Ram): 21.8 mpg

As you can see, Tesla led by a mile in 2019, and it’s expected to continue to do so for 2020, with the Model 3 leading the way, according to the EPA. The order of the top four remains unchanged from 2019 to 2020, though Tesla, Hyundai and Honda are all expected to improve slightly in their average fleetwide fuel economy, while Subaru is expected to take a slight dip. In fact, many manufacturers’ ratings are expected to dip slightly. Besides Subaru, several others (Kia, Mazda, BMW and Volkswagen) are all projected to drop. The good news? The EPA projects that even more manufacturers will increase their fleetwide fuel economy, though we’ll have to wait and see what happens once the numbers are finalized — likely to be released in next year’s annual Automotive Trends Report.

These numbers are based on fleetwide data, so it isn’t just about one example of each car a manufacturer makes, but rather the total. Unsurprisingly, the Detroit Three automakers, which sell popular but relatively inefficient pickup trucks and SUVs, are at the bottom. Car- and hybrid-heavy lineups rank higher, while Tesla’s all-electric lineup ranks highest. We suspect Kia’s projected drop is due to the introduction and popularity of its larger three-row SUV, the Telluride.

From 2014-19, most manufacturers increased their average fuel economy, the EPA says. Only Mazda (falling to 27.8 mpg from 29.0 mpg), Ford and GM (both sliding to 22.5 mpg from 22.7 mpg) declined. The biggest improvement in that period belongs to Kia, which increased to 28.1 mpg from 25.7 mpg (though, again, it’s projected to drop in 2020). Honda (improving to 28.9 mpg from 27.0 mpg) and Hyundai (improving to 28.5 mpg from 27.2 mpg) had the next highest increases.

In coming years, as more automakers move toward hybridization and electrification — even among the SUVs that consumers overwhelmingly prefer — it’s likely that most of these figures will continue to increase.

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